This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Strike - NLC Offers to Intervene

Worried about the prolonged impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) offered to intervene with the aim of resolving the stalemate between both parties.

In a letter it wrote to the presidency, the body said it was seeking leave to intervene in the crises which is now in its sixth month.

The NLC leadership met with the top echelon of ASUU in Abuja Monday. The Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Chris Uyot confirmed the meeting and the effort of the Congress at resolving the crisis.

"We have sent a letter to the presidency. We want to intervene in this matter," he said. "The turn of events is causing a lot of disaffection which can easily be resolved, that is if the government is willing to talk about it," Uyot added.

But in deference to the new directive by the federal government to Nigerian university lecturers to resume duties or be sacked, some of the universities have re-opened, but the classrooms were yet empty as lecturers have continued to stay away. The resume-or-be-sacked order was extended from December 4 to 9 to allow the lecturers attend the burial of the former President of ASUU, late Professor Festus Iyayi. Although some universities have announced resumption dates, with some students resuming on campuses, THISDAY checks showed that academic activities were yet to commence as members of the ASUU have resolved to continue the strike.

At the Bayero University Kano (BUK), both students and lecturers were conspicuously absent at both the new and old campuses, as both the lecture halls and the hostels remained shut.

Speaking to journalists on why BUK lecturers failed to comply with the federal government's directive to resume lectures yesterday, ASUU chapter Chairman, Dr. Mahmud Lawan, confirmed that they were still on strike.

Lawan insisted that they would not shift grounds, asking rhetorically whether the strike was declared by the Federal government or ASUU.

"We have not in any way shifted grounds and we are not shifting grounds until the federal government responds to the letter from ASUU leadership, as well as address the issues discussed and agreed with the government before any other thing can take place," he said.

But in the University of Abuja, there was a controversy over the number of lecturers who complied with the resume-or-be-sacked order.

While the university authorities claimed that at least 250 lecturers have signed the resumption register and resumed work, the UniAbuja chapter of ASUU said only 23 lecturers have signed the resumption register.

The Director, Public Relations of the Institution, Mallam Waziri Garba, told THISDAY in a telephone conversation that lectures have already started in some departments by some lecturers, who had outstanding lecture times. The institution has a total of 520 lecturers, out of which Garba said, 250 have resumed. But the UniAbuja branch of ASUU disputed the figures.

The Chairman of the branch, Dr. Clement Chup, in a telephone interview, insisted that only 23 lecturers signed the resumption register.

"From my investigations ,only 23 resumed and I challenge them to publish the list. Only 23 out of about 600 lecturers, does that make any sense," he said. A third year student of the institution, who simply gave his name as Anthony said lectures have not started in his department, Business Administration. He, however, noted that some departments have already placed lecture time-tables on their notice boards for lectures to commence later this week.

THISDAY gathered that the University of Ibadan had also announced January 6, 2014 as its resumption day, whether the strike was called off then or not. Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka announced its readiness to resume on November 25; University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) and University of Abuja announced December 4, as their resumption dates.

The Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) was said to have asked its students to resume on December 8. Universities of Benin and Jos were reported to have resumed, just as the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) advertised the position of the lecturers who flouted the directive to return to the classrooms. Spokesperson of OAU, who confirmed the resumption, said students have been returning in droves, but was not certain if academic activities were ongoing.

In a reaction to the supposed resumption and the federal government's ultimatum, the ASUU Chairman, OAU chapter, Prof. Peter Akinola, said: "Resuming does not mean that something serious will happen. We did not close the university; we only withdrew the services of our members. We are aware and we won't stop them from following federal government's directive. The resumption is for the students, not us. We will resume when our demands are met."

At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, most departments and offices were still under lock and key, with lecture halls still deserted, while few students were seen strolling in and out of the school campus.

A lecturer, who preferred anonymity, said: "Lecturers are only waiting for the directive of ASUU head as no sack threat or what so ever can force us into the classroom. People that are saying the strike has been politicised are enemies of education, as the strike will not be called off until government shows readiness to meet our demands."

At the University of Lagos, THISDAY observed that students were eager to resume, as some of them had moved into the hostels, which remained open since the strike began. Some of them, mostly fresh students were seen in their numbers undergoing registration.

Though some lecturers were at the campus, the lecture halls remained empty with no sign of activity.

Some of the students on campus expressed hope that lectures would soon commence, but while some threatened to stage a protest if lecturers refused to return to the classrooms soon, others said they would go back home if lecturers remain adamant.

But the Chairman of Modibbo Adama University of Technology, MAUTECH, Yola, Adamawa state, chapter of ASUU, Dr Augustine Ndaghu, said lecturers of the institution have refused to resume lectures because they believed that the orders of the federal government were mere empty threats.

It was the same posture at the University of Uyo where the union insisted that it would not call off the strike, despite the fact that some other universities have returned to their lecture halls.

Chairman, University of Uyo branch of ASUU, Mr. Nwachukwu Anyim, told journalists that the union noted with concern that some of the members are signing the register for resumption of work saying the action of the lecturers to return to duty post could be out of error.

He said the union was deeply concerned that over the position of the lecturers, who signed the register since four them were from the faculty of Law, while two others were from the faculty of Education.

He said: "By the grace of God, it is a success story so far, we are 1, 450 lecturers and if fewer than 10 persons probably that there were not around, have gone to sign in error, even if they do so consciously,that has not affected the status of the strike in this university."

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